First Event is moving to Boston!

First Event 2020 will be held at the Boston Park Plaza in downtown Boston, from January 29 – February 2. This is the first time in 40 years that First Event will be held in Boston instead of in neighboring suburbs. This FAQ intends to explain why we are making this change and to give a sense of what to expect.

Why is First Event 2020 leaving the Best Western in Marlborough?

We outgrew the Best Western in Marlborough – there were just too many compromises to serve our growing community. The space crunch led to Sunday workshops, turning away vendors who want to support us, and a rather uncomfortable dining experience at the fashion show.

So we had to leave the Best Western, but why downtown Boston?

We had 3 “must have” requirements for our new location:

  1. Sufficient space for programming, including workshops and social events
  2. Accessible by public transit from Boston so that the greatest number of people could attend, including those without cars or with insufficient means to take private transportation
  3. Affordable, allowing us to offer comparable prices to First Event 2019

We ran an exhaustive search process, engaging in deep discussions with transit-accessible hotels in less-crowded Boston neighborhoods and in the neighboring suburbs. It might be surprising, but very few of these hotels had sufficient programming space. And those that did, like the Newton Marriott and the new Encore Boston Harbor Resort were way too expensive for both hotel rooms and conference costs.

Will it really be affordable? Boston is SOOO expensive!

Yes, it will. And there will be more options at different price points.

Hotel rooms will cost $109/night (cozy rooms) and $139/night (superior rooms). In addition, we have arranged for beds at a nearby hostel for $34/night. For reference, rooms at the Best Western cost $132/night.

Registration fees will be as close as possible to 2019 registration fees. While we haven’t worked out the final numbers, we expect to keep workshop prices steady and evening events within about $5.

Food and drinks on your own may be a bit more expensive at the hotel, but the beauty of being in the city is that there are so many options right at your doorstep.

We also are finding that our downtown location is making us more appealing to conference sponsors. Sponsors cover a growing percentage of the costs of First Event, allowing us to keep costs as low as possible for attendees.

But what about parking? Parking in Boston is dreadful!

You are right. Parking in Boston is brutal. There’s no way around it – you won’t find the combination of price and convenience of parking at a suburban hotel.

We are actively exploring multiple parking options, including:

  • Negotiated rates with nearby garages.
  • Free or cheap parking farther from the hotel, with some options for getting to the hotel like transit, a shuttle van, or coordinating shared ubers/Lyfts.

Is there anything good about being at the Park Plaza in Boston?

You bet! We are super-excited about our new location, and really hope you love it as much as we think you will. Here are the 10 best things about our move:

  1. No Sunday workshops
  2. Easily accessible by public transit
  3. O’Connor’s Pub is next door
  4. Shopping on Newbury Street
  5. Easy to get to from Logan
  6. More welcoming to more diverse (age, race, gender identity, financial means) attendees
  7. Expanded evening programming (stay tuned!)
  8. More interest from potential conference sponsors, vendors, and workshop presenters, bringing more resources to the trans community
  9. They don’t call Boston the “hub” (of the universe) for nothing! Boston’s got spahts and cultcha like nobody’s business!
  10. This is where we’ll have the fashion show and banquet. For reals!

Tell us what you think

We would love to hear what you think about the move. What are you most excited about? Any lingering questions or concerns? Post your thoughts below.

53 Replies to “First Event is moving to Boston!”

  1. Great move. I’ve marked my calendar and look forward to seeing everyone there and many new faces too. Boston is my favorite city and First Event is my favorite conference.

    1. A major problem. In fact, such a problem that I’m seriously considering passing. It’s not just the expense. It’s the hassle of getting into a traffic-snarled city by a certain time. It’s the hassle of finding a garage, and then having to walk blocks to get to the hotel, and then into the venue. And then hassle with the same issues on the long trip back home. If you need something from your car, it’s a long trip back to the garage. And to be honest, it’s far less safe in such places than the parking lot at the Marriott in Newton, or other suburban locations.

      It’s great for those who live in Boston, or ride the T, but it’s a serious issue for anyone who has to travel by car.

      1. It will be a shame, a major shame, if many of the long-timers choose not to attend because of the abrupt change of city. I’d urged a one year extension in Marlborough so as to gather more data and prepare people for an eventual move. Instead the leadership chose “cold turkey.” I understand the thinking but am sad that many — perhaps very many — will be disadvantaged or worse by this abrupt shift of location. I’m hoping for the best but have already heard from friends who are seriously considering not attending next year. Is it truly a good thing to exchange long-timers, who helped build and sustain the conference, for daytimers in the City?

  2. I think you’ve done a great job coming up with solutions to the problems you faced at the Best Western this past January. I talked to quite a few people at First Event (and at Keystone) about this move, and cost (especially for parking) was by far the #1 concern that I heard. It sounds like you’re working hard to address this issue.

    These are “good” problems to have, because they arise from the incredible growth that First Event has undergone over the last 5 years. This is a testament to the quality of the event; everyone wants to go! I for one am looking forward to participating next year (#8 for me!) in downtown Boston!

  3. Dear Friends,

    You will perhaps recall that I urged you to wait one year before making this change. That suggestion was less about me and more about some of the girls I know for whom Marlborough was a particular comfort zone. For them the change will bring great anxiety and, for some, an end to their attendance at the conference. The increased prices will also, for some, be a major deterrent. As for myself, I’m likely to attend, as I enjoy the conference so much. You will recall that I have volunteered for several years and am likely to volunteer again.

    I’ve stayed at this hotel several times, although not for a few years. I’ve found it to be fine, albeit dated and quirky. You will need to stay close to management before and during the conference.

    1. Thanks to everyone for the comments. It’s great to see the enthusiasm and the open minds by which many are approaching this major transition.

      Emily – please continue to send anybody our way who thinks they’ll stop attending with the move to Boston. We’d love to see if there are things we can do to make sure everyone continues to feel welcome. Also note that the Park Plaza recently underwent a $100 million transformation so hopefully you won’t find it to be so dated.

  4. I think this sounds very exciting, and I’m so proud of the team at First Event which is making this possible. The truth is, with mass transportation, most won’t need their cars on a daily basis. I’d love to find a place to “tuck it away” for a few days until the festivities are over.
    The dining, evening opportunities, the shopping, just the sheer number of things to do is thrilling. And these days, for those of us comfortable enough to traverse the great outdoors, the conference is becoming less about “what’s in it for me?”, and more about us becoming Ambassadors of the Trans Community. I think this is a terrific step forward.

    1. I welcome the opportunity to be an Ambassador to the Trans Community. Last year at First Event I went to the local Macy’s to get something I had forgot to bring. I went as Lisa and the sales woman I interacted with knew nothing about First Event but wanted to know what it was all about. She was very accepting. For those of us comfortable being in public it is great opportunity to show we are just regular women.

    1. Sherri
      All the vendor / advertiser / workshop requests will come out just after Labor Day. we’ll keep our eye out!
      See you there
      Cheryl

  5. It sounds great!!! I love the idea of being in Boston. The price sounds very fair and I am looking forward to taking the train from NYC to Boston instead of driving. Last year I investigated trying to get to Marlborough with mass transit but it was just too difficult. Last year I had to drive in yucky weather to get there. All around an EXCELLENT move! Looking forward to it.

  6. A follow up question. Last year was my first year and I was impressed with the level of security at the conference last. It is said it has to be that way but that is the times we are a living in. Will you maintain the same level of security at the new location?

    1. Lisa,
      there will be a security presence. The Boston PD has been super helpful already and they really pride themselves on their efforts to make all of Boston safe for LGBT community. We’ll also have our own security detail. That being said, we also have folks who don’t appreciate the security presence, so we are looking for ways to provide the security but minimize discomfort. Like plain clothes security and/or LGBT members for the detail.
      Thanks for asking
      Cheryl

  7. Hello Michelle,
    Positive Vibe! I only see the up-side to our move. Right after the move was announced, I took my camera to The Boston Park Plaza to see what I could see. Only good things. Like most hotels, it was pretty slow, so most rooms were closed & locked. Everyone I met, like all 17 employees I talked with we happy to have us coming to their hotel almost a year away, very gracious to me, & general entheustastic.
    Yes, we are right in the heart of Boston, (thats a good thing). Yes, someone, by the law of averages, will run into the only crabby, miserable, p**%@#& alive. I can guarantee you, your overall greeting will be positive & good. Boston is, well, BOSTON! Ever-time I go in town, its like I’m a “real little girl”. I hardly get a side-ways glance. As always, don’t let your guard down, this is not Podunk, though I heard not nice things about Podunk, your in no more danger than in your own town, probably less. Relax, enjoy, don’t worry, be happy. I’ll go with you, that’ll scare them away. NGF

  8. I travel into Boston frequently for many reasons. My wife and I have stayed at the Plaza on “getaways” in the winter. I am very familiar with that part of Boston.

    That being said, I have serious reservations about the parking issue and the logistics of getting into the hotel. I fear that this would dispel many for attending. The expense of parking coupled with the cost of breakfast at the Plaza (for those who don’t venture out) would be key factors in the decision making process for many. I suspect many others might feel this way.

  9. well, I heard, several “boston” girls at this years f/e complaining about, driving out to the event, so figured, just a matter of time, things would change, many of us ” burbs” girls” have supported f/e for years, and because of the travel, parking, cost, involed with going to boston, at least the ones I know, have no interest going to boston, too bad for us I guess, boston wins again

    1. Bobby
      I am really sorry to hear you say that. We tried really hard to make this move work for everyone. We certainly didn’t want to have winners and losers. I live 40 miles outside of Boston, so I completely understand the challenge. We are proud of the room pricing and we have a few options to ease (but we know we can’t eliminate) the pain of parking. Please feel free to let me know what your specific concerns are and we’ll do our best to address them.

      Thanks for sharing your comments.
      Cheryl

  10. Thank you so much for all your tangible efforts to make First Event more inclusive. Change is hard. Conference logistics are always challenging and adding on a new space and addressing feelings of loss for some, especially in this transition, takes thoughtfulness and energy. I appreciate your ongoing communications with community members. This move will make the conference more accessible for many of our community, who vary in age, race, gender identity, and financial means, as you mention. I am excited to see the ongoing developments. The more we can truly get to know one another the stronger we are as a trans community.

    1. George
      Thanks so much for your empathetic response. Once we realized we no longer fit in Marlboro, that’s exactly what we sought to do. It’ll be tough, but this awesome First Event team is up to the challenge.
      Thanks
      Cheryl

  11. This is awesome…love that will be in Boston. So much in that area…the restaurants, shopping and theater district! Great call to move to the city.

    1. Brenda
      And we are super lucky to have Heather Leigh who runs the popular DIVA SOCIALS TG parties in CT coordinating the First Event social events. Heather does a great job with DIVA Socials and will bring that same energy to all the social activities – some inside the hotel, some out and about!

      See you there!
      Cheryl

  12. I Love the idea of moving to the heart of the city, the vibe, excitement.
    Will the new hotel have a pool?? My once a year escape.
    Is it possible to have a”color-ist,” I don’t know if that is a term, but some one from a department store who can give a talk on what color of clothing is best suited for the individual.I may have Summer skin tones or dark skin tones so blue or beige may not look the best on me . Just an idea . Keep up the GREAT work, it all sounds positive !!!

    1. Frann
      Sadly there is no pool 🙁 their work out space is AMAZING! but it doesn’t have a pool.

      Yes, we’ll absolutely have fashion experts and make up artists to help with all those types of concerns. We’ll be launching the vendor and workshop request forms soon after Labor Day, and publishing the full list in early Dec.

      See you there!
      Cheryl

  13. I am very excited to learn of the new venue. It looks to be dynamic and full of charm. All of you make me feel super, even if I come all the way from Southern California to start my busy year. The move is so important in so many ways. Keep up the great work, and stay well.

  14. Wow! I’m So looking forward to 2020 now! Our first Trans Train trip! Who needs a car. We’re up in Maine – Portland to Boston express. I gotta start looking for matching luggage.

  15. I am traveling to FE from Albany NY area on Thursday Jan 30 and would be willing to pick up somoene on the way to Boston, particularly if the person would split the cost of parking.

  16. I recently read an article in the Boston Globe mentioning how each room has a mandatory $22.00 resort fee for each night stayed. Do the prices above reflect this fee or would this be added to the prices here?

    I am for the change but nervous on how to get my luggage and me by commuter rail into Boston since I would prefer not to drive my car.

    1. Michelle
      We confirmed, before we signed the contract, that fee is already built into the cost of the rooms we quoted.

      I think the commuter rail is a great idea. Several folks will take a Lyft or Uber the last leg, So if you take the commuter rail to South Station an Uber ride would only be a couple dollars and just a few minutes – it’s about 8 blocks away.

      See you there!
      Cheryl

  17. I’m excited for the venue change. The Best Western was very good to us but the distance from Logan Airport was a barrier for our friends from out of town that would fly in. While the neighborhood can be expensive, I’m impressed at the reduced rates negotiated at the Park Plaza!

  18. As someone who is involved with several other organizations that run meetings this size, finding a hotel that can accommodate a group this size is extremely difficult. In fact, these groups move their meeting around the country and have not brought them to New England in several decades. FE doesn’t have the opportunity to move to another part of the country nor many venues to choose from. Given the choice between limiting the event or finding a better venue, I applaud them for trying this solution. No solution would be perfect. The Best Western was much better than the Westin and the event grew in size because of it. Let’s give this venue a chance and get some creative solutions for the new challenges.

    1. Leann
      Thanks so much for your vote of confidence and support. The committee is working really hard to make this entire experience memorable and impactful for every attendee.
      See you there!
      Cheryl

  19. I love it! One drawback of the suburb locations of the previous locations is how cloistered we are. I look forward to walking out the door to everything that being in a city has to offer.
    I live in a suburb of Boston so I’m sure I’ll just take Lyft in. Two Lyft rides will be far cheaper than parking and more convenient. I wonder if we could locate a few free/cheap parking areas outside of Boston that others could rideshare in from?

  20. I’m excited about the prospect of a new place for us. This hotel is so much more convenient. Kudos for thinking out of the box.

  21. Here’s what the move means to me.

    I have animals that demand twice daily care. That means that when the event was in Marlboro, I’d awaken at 4, complete barn chores, dress, drive 45 minutes to Marlboro, park free in a giant lot where I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a spot or getting mugged, and enter the event. If I needed to grab a jacket, or leave something, I could pop out to the car in less than a minute. Getting home is just as easy. No tolls, not much traffic, not much aggravation.

    With the new event locale, I now will have to get up at 3. Do the usual chores. Head into Boston on a weekday, right at a time with peak commuting activity. Fight traffic into the city with the sun in my eyes all the day, on a commute that will take 2 hours at peak time instead of the usual one. Pay tolls. Once in the city, fight traffic to the garage. Pay ultra-peak parking rates that will probably be higher than the fee to get into the event, and leave my car in a crowded, dark garage where I’ll have to drive to the roof deck to find a spot. Risk mugging in the dingy garage. Boston is not a safe city. Walk 15 – 30 minutes in the winter to the hotel. I’ll have to carry shoes because you can’t walk on icy sidewalks in heels. And then repeat the process heading home, fighting traffic, and sun glare again.

    This is probably not a problem to those who use public transit, or intend to spend the week at the event. For those of us who have to commute in, it’s just not worth the aggravation.

  22. When crossdressers get out to First Event, for many it’s the only time they get out all year making it sort of our Mardi Gras so we bring a ton of clothes, makeup, shoes etc so paying for and parking off site and dealing with the logistics of getting all the gear to the hotel that they have no plans of leaving all weekend is a giant problem!
    The Tiffany Club was founded by people in their crossdressing stage of gender expression and for the people (probably all transsexuals) in charge of FE planning to move the event to Boston with no consideration for the people in the CD end of the spectrum is off the scale selfish!
    It’s that selfishness however that makes skipping First Event this year a little easier!
    Jennifer

    1. Jennifer,
      I’m so sorry to hear your comments. As a part time CD myself and the chair of First Event, I can certainly tell you I can empathize and I’m planning to bring a TON of clothing. I, and the rest of the committee, tried really hard to find the right size hotel with all the accommodations needed. Personally, I am SUPER excited about the facility and the elegance. Admittedly, I have put a ton of work into this – so I’m pretty biased.

      We’ve talked to the hotel about having extra bell hops on duty to ease the logistics, and we have opportunities for carpool type vans for small groups of two or three people + tons of luggage. It’s our hope that these adjustments, will help ease any discomfort of moving. I’m happy to discuss more directly and I really hope you share your direct concerns. I know we won’t be able to accommodate every issue, but we are happy to try and hopefully we’ll be able to tip the scales back into balance for you.

      Thanks for sharing your comments
      Cheryl Katon
      KatonCheryl@gmail.com

  23. I agree 100% Jennifer I expressed that earlier, guess the (burbs) c/d’s don’t have a say anymore, I always had a good time at f/e, guess i’ll stay home, as before I found it, sad. guess it was too far for the boston people to drive

    1. Kelly
      I certainly respect your observation and I’m sorry if the move doesn’t work for you. I responded to Jennifer’s note above, please take a look at that detailed response, and I’ll share the same invite to you and others to contact me. I’d appreciate any additional information about your concerns, and I’d be happy to share our best efforts to help everyone feel more welcome.
      Thanks
      Cheryl

  24. Have you thought about doing speed dating 1 night at the event for those who are single and looking to meet the special someone.

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